12WBT: Warm Up

Everyone who signs up for a 12WBT Round (there are four in a year) starts and finishes together; you are not alone in your journey, everyone else is doing the same thing, at the same time. The 12WBT setup is if you sign up on the first day that it opens (as I did), you have a full month to complete the Warm Up; four weekly challenges to complete or try to complete. It is a clever way to continue the momentum for everyone who wants to start immediately but enables the organisers to keep the signup period open for two months, and it is a useful exercise for participants.

The range of abilities of participants and starting weights is quite large; what is a large amount to lose for one person is one fifth of the goal loss of someone else. I do exercise, but not as frequently as I ought, but this is still more than some participants had ever done since school, and even then, they expended the most energy trying to avoid physical education classes rather than taking part in them.

Warm-up is very helpful because it breaks down your actual real goal of (say) “I want to be 30 kilos lighter” down to a simple goal of “for this week, I’m going to walk to the shops instead of driving”. It doesn’t remove that larger goal because by making this change you are still working towards it. And even though the program hasn’t started, you still getting a head start. What it also does is make people more receptive to the idea of making larger changes to their life. “You started walking the collective 1.2km to the shops and back, by the end of the third week you were walking the collective 5km to the train station and back again each day.”

The first Warm-up challenge was make one single small change; try not to snack between meals, or walk to the train station or the shops instead of driving, etc. The second challenge was to halve your non-water drinks intake; swap out some of your daily drinks for water, and consume 30 mls of water for every kilo of bodyweight. Water fills you up between meals, and most people don’t drink enough of it anyway. Also, it has no added extras the way fizzy drinks do.

The third challenge was to try and move 30 km under your own steam in a week (walk, run, row, ride), or if that is completely unrealistic because you haven’t moved more than a kilometre ever, to then aim for as much as you can – maybe 10 km. The fourth challenge was to keep an accurate food diary, and write down everything you ate in a week. Everything.

There are forums that go with the program, and most participants take part. The range of people in the program go from people who are completely freaked out because for most meals they eat badly or even worse: takeaway and just don’t exercise, to people who have 5 kilos to lose and just want a guideline and some exercise plans.

For some participants it is completely overwhelming, all the time. They are confronted with things that they have avoided their entire life – they don’t like this food, so instead of finding a healthy alternative, they go for the unhealthy option. “I don’t like that, so I’ll eat chips instead”. Or because they are overweight, they have bad knees/hips/back, so “Because my knees are bad, I won’t exercise because I might hurt myself”.  It’s always been all or nothing, and because they “couldn’t” do all, they went for nothing, every time.

Initially I got frustrated with people. They were so far into their own negative spiral that they would assume they would fail. I don’t understand that mindset; to have so little faith and self confidence that you could be so low. To be completely demolished by an emailed task that gently suggested that perhaps only drinking fizzy drink wasn’t a good idea. The third challenge of moving 30 km under your own steam over the course of a week was “Impossible!” They immediately decided that they were going to fail, and that there wasn’t any point in continuing, they’d just completely blown $200, may as well get stuck into the cakes etc etc. None of them seemed to read the bit of the email that said “you need to try, you don’t have to succeed but you have to try”.

But then some of them eventually come through. They say “well, I didn’t make the 30 km this week, but I’ll try again next week.” And you feel so happy for them because you know that they will succeed.

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